Utah Man Buys Up Domain Names in Bush Push

Aug 26, 10:04 AM (ET)

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) - Type vermontdemocrats.com into your computer and you'll get a surprise: the re-election Web site of President Bush, a Republican.

Jed Merrill, 28, of Park City, Utah, has registered the Web addresses of vermontdemocrats.com, mainedemocrats.com, massachusettsdemocrats.com and rhode-islanddemocrats.com, and linked them to the GOP site.

Vermont Republicans said they had no knowledge of the Internet trick. Gov. James Douglas, himself the victim of Internet hijacking, condemned the practice.

"I hadn't heard of that; it's news to me. Obviously I regret any chicanery on the Internet," he said.

Douglas' 2002 campaign Web address had been tied to a pornography site. At the time, his campaign spokesman said the campaign had let the annual registration lapse, and it had fallen into the control of someone else.

Merrill said he had been buying up the domain names this summer as they became available to build an information network. All direct visitors to the Bush site.

Merrill said he supported Bush because of the president's position on the Iraq war. He said he returned from Iraq three months ago, when he served in the 142nd Utah Army National Guard.

"I want to get the attention of the Bush campaign, but I sent them an e-mail and it came back," he said.

He bought the vermontdemocrats.com domain name for "very little," but said he had spent about $30,000 on domain names and research expenses in the past couple of months.

At Vermont Republican Party headquarters, spokesman Ian Grossman said he was unaware of Merrill's push.

"That's news here - that's wacky," Grossman said.

Scudder Parker, chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party, said that as long as Google, the Internet search engine, redirected interested people to the right site, there was nothing Democrats could do.

"It's an annoyance, definitely," Parker said. "It's the Wild West out there."

Kevin Madden, a spokesman for Bush/Cheney '04, said the campaign's Internet staffers were unaware of the connection.

"But anything that directs traffic to our site is fine with us," he said.